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Best baby car seats: safe and secure options from birth, as reviewed by parents

We've put the UK’s best car seats through their paces to highlight the best baby car seats to buy for newborns, as tested and reviewed by real parents. 

By Laura Westerman | Last updated Dec 19, 2022

mother strapping child into car seat Mumsnet Best

Deciding on the best car seat to buy for your newborn baby is a big decision to make – and rightly so. With so many different options to choose from and so many car seat laws and regulations to get to grips with, you may well feel confused.

But fear not. We've worked hard to research and test the best car seats on the market to bring you all the information you need to make the right choice for you and your baby.

We've put together a handy buyer's guide at the bottom of this page to highlight the main things to consider before buying a baby car seat, including a breakdown of car seat jargon, from ISOFIX systems to i-Size seats. Or scroll down to check out our top five products, as recommended by parents. All seats are suitable from birth and some will see you through until your kids are around 12 years of age. 

If you're looking for a car seat for an older child, consider our guides to the best toddler car seats and best car seats for children. We've also rounded up the best car sunshades for babies

Watch our video roundup of the five best baby car seats

1. Best overall baby car seat: Maxi-Cosi Rock

Maxi Cosi car seat

Price: RRP £169 | Buy now from Maxi-Cosi

Tested by parents: Maxi-Cosi Rock full review

Key specs

Suitable from: Birth to 75cm (around 12 months old) | Safety credentials: i-Size (R129), impact absorbing materials and side impact protection | Fixing system: ISOFIX or seatbelt | Weight: 3.9kg | Guarantee: Lifetime

What we love

  • Versatile and lightweight (only 3.9kg)
  • Can be attached to a travel system if you have the right adaptors
  • Newborn inlay adds extra security and support
  • Features a newborn recline position

What to know

  • Can only be used up to 12 months
  • Pricey if using only with a seatbelt
  • ISOFIX base isn't included

What Mumsnet users say

"I have the Rock and love it! Covers come off to wash in the machine too." - recommended by Mumsnet user, jlr1986

Our verdict

The Maxi-Cosi Rock is a versatile first car seat that will provide a snug and safe environment for a newborn baby, and it's ideal if you know you'll be switching between cars a lot.

It can be installed using a seatbelt or ISOFIX fittings (although you do, unfortunately, have to buy the ISOFIX base separately) and it's even TUV-approved to be used on an aeroplane. It's great for parents who travel often and are looking for a lightweight car seat that can be moved easily between cars. It's super simple to set up and use. 

Read next: The best car seats for toddlers, as recommended by parents

2. Best from birth to 12 years: Cozy N Safe Arthur

Cozy N Safe Arthur car seat

Price: RRP £150 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Cozy N Safe Arthur full review

Key specs

Suitable from: Birth to 12 years – rear-facing from birth to 18kg (or four years) and forward-facing from 9-36kg (approximately nine months to 12 years) | Safety credentials: R44/04, side impact protection, steel frame for improved structural strength and energy absorption | Fixing system: Seatbelt for rear-facing and seatbelt or ISOFIX for front-facing | Weight: 12.5kg | Guarantee: 12 months

What we love

  • Frame reinforced with steel and padded with high-density polyurethane foam
  • Adjustable headrest
  • Four-position recline to a 155-degree lie-flat angle for newborns
  • Extended rear-facing car seat
  • Affordable

What to know

  • Tricky to install when using seatbelt fixings
  • Can only use ISOFIX for forward-facing travel
  • Heavy

Our verdict

The Cozy N Safe Arthur ticks all the boxes and (big plus) it could be the only car seat you'll ever need to buy! Designed to grow and adapt with your child, this seat can be used from birth all the way up to 12 years old.

It's a hard-wearing, well-designed seat with an adjustable headrest and a four-position recline, including a 155-degree angle for newborns. While it can only be fitted with a seatbelt when it's rear-facing, you do have the option to use ISOFIX points when it's safe for your child to face forwards.

With loads of padding and an in-built ventilation system, the Arthur will keep your child safe and comfy no matter their age. It's great for parents that want a seat that will last for the long haul.

Read next: The best baby carriers to buy

3. Best extended rear-facing car seat: Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size

Britax Romer Dualfix Isize car seat

Price: RRP £350 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size full review

Key specs

Suitable from: Birth to 105cm (or age four) – forward-facing from 76-105cm | Safety credentials: R129, Stiftung Warentest (2.1), ADAC (2.1) and ÖAMTC (good) and side impact protection | Fixing system: ISOFIX | Weight: 15kg | Guarantee: Two years

What we love

  • 360-degree rotation
  • 12 recline positions
  • Machine-washable seat cover
  • Can be used from birth right up to four years 

What to know

  • Huge seat that takes up a lot of space
  • Tricky to install
  • Not travel system-compatible

Our verdict

Britax Römer's Dualfix i-Size, aka 'The Throne', is an extended rear-facing car seat that's designed to keep your child in a rear-facing position from birth up to the age of four.

While it's a huge seat that'll likely take up most of the back seat, it's well padded with a specially-designed insert for newborns and it has no less than 12 recline positions (bonkers, we know). It's also a swivel seat so it can be rotated 360 degrees, making it really easy to get your baby in and out during the dreaded nursery run. It's great for parents that have a large car and want to keep their child rear-facing for as long as possible.

Read next: The best car sunshades, as recommended by parents

4. Best all-round baby car seat: Joie i-Spin 360

Joie i-Spin 360 car seat

Price: RRP £340 | Buy now from John Lewis

Tested by parents: Joie i-Spin 360 full review

Key specs

Suitable from: Birth to 105cm (or four years old) – rear-facing from birth to 105cm and forward-facing from 15 months to 105cm | Safety credentials: R129, Smart Ride™ lock-off, Guard Surround Safety™ panels for side impact protection and Tri-Protect™ headrest | Fixing system: ISOFIX | Weight: 13.9kg | Guarantee: Two years

What to love

  • Swivel seat makes it easy to get your baby in and out
  • Extended rear-facing
  • Easy to install
  • Six recline positions, including a lie-flat recline, that can be adjusted on the go
  • Chunky padding

What to know

  • Floor leg fixture is a bit fiddly
  • Design makes it difficult to carry the seat to and from the car

What Mumsnet users say

"The Joie i-spin is actually one of my favourite car seats" - recommended by Mumsnet user, teaandlotusbiscoff

Our verdict

Like the Dualfix i-Size, the Joie i-Spin 360 can be used from birth until your child reaches four years old and, as the name suggests, it's a swivel seat too.

We think the Joie is a great all-rounder as its ISOFIX fittings make it one of the easiest car seats to install and although it seems pricey, it's actually very reasonable considering the longevity it offers. It's a bit too heavy to be carried between cars, but the 360-degree rotation makes it easy to wrestle a screaming baby into the seat without breaking a sweat.

Related: The best pushchairs to buy, as recommended by parents

5. Best budget baby car seat: Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus

Maxi Cosi Pebble Pro car seat

Price: RRP £190 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus full review

Key specs

Suitable from: Birth to 13kg or 75cm | Safety credentials: i-Size (R129) and side impact protection | Fixing system: ISOFIX or three-point seatbelt | Weight of the Pebble Plus: 4.5kg | 3wayFix base: 6.35kg | Guarantee: Lifetime

What we love

  • Quick and simple to install, reducing any margin for error
  • Light and sound confirmation when ISOFIX is installed correctly
  • Five recline positions
  • Compatible with a wide variety of travel systems
  • Aeroplane-approved

What to know

  • ISOFIX base sold separately
  • Integrated sun canopy comes up small

What Mumsnet users say

"We went for the Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus for our little one (who is now nearly two) and loved it" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Bees1

Our verdict

The Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus comes up trumps for safety, comfort and simple installation, making travelling with a baby in tow easier than ever.

It's specially designed for newborns but it'll last until your child is 75cm (approximately 12 months). This i-Size car seat's easy-fitting harness and impact-absorbing side wings make it very comfortable for babies and easy to use for parents.

We think it offers great longevity and therefore great value. While the ISOFIX base is sold separately (if you opt to use this seat using your car's ISOFIX fittings – you don't have to), the 3wayFix base can be used with the Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro i-Size, the next seat up in the Maxi-Cosi range. This means that your baby will be able to travel rearward-facing all the way up to four years old. It's great for parents that travel often and have a car without ISOFIX points. 

Read next: The best car seats for older children, as recommended by parents

baby sleeping in car seat

What are the different types of baby car seats?

UK law states that a child needs to be in a car seat up to the age of 12 years old or 135cm tall (whichever comes first). Car seats are based on either weight or height, depending on which regulation they follow. Seats under the R44 regulation are weight-based and seats under R129 are height-based. Broadly speaking, there are two types of cars seats that can be used with a newborn:

Infant seats

These are also called Group 0 or 0+ if they're not i-Size seats, and are designed to be used up to around 12 months. They:

  • Are smaller and lighter than combination seats
  • Are sometimes compatible with travel systems
  • May come with a newborn insert for tiny babies

Combination car seats

Also known as Group 0+/1, these seats are designed to adapt to a growing child and can be used from birth to approximately four years old. Some can even be used all the way up to 12. They:

  • Are long-lasting
  • Often come with removable inserts for smaller babies
  • Are bigger and heavier than infant seats
  • Are designed to stay in one car

What is i-Size?

i-Size seats meet the new R129 European car seat safety standards that came into force in July 2013, which aims to increase the safety performance of all car seats on the market.

R129 regulations are currently running in parallel with R44 so you can buy car seats that adhere to either guidelines. At some point, R44 car seats will be phased out of the shops – but it's unclear exactly when this will happen.

Read next: Tips for keeping you and your family safe on the road

What are the differences between R44 and R129?

R44

  • Classification based on weight
  • Rear and front impact testing
  • Can be fitted using seat belt or ISOFIX points
  • Seat must be rear-facing until your child weighs 9kg

R129

  • Classification is based on height
  • Rear, front and side-impact testing
  • Seat is attached with ISOFIX points
  • Seat must be rear facing until your child is older than 15 months

What is ISOFIX?

ISOFIX is a structural system built into the car that has fitting points to attach an ISOFIX car seat. The seat is latched onto the ISOFIX points and then braced by using either a support leg or top tether.

You can only use an ISOFIX seat in a car with ISOFIX fittings and not all vehicles have them, especially older models. It is important to check the child car seat manufacturer’s compatibility list as there are some vehicle features that can make the child car seat incompatible.

You’ll be able to find out if your car has ISOFIX attachments by looking for tags or labels in the base of the seat or by contacting your manufacturer.

Watch our car seat FAQ video

Here, Jan James from Good Egg Car Safety answers some of the most frequently asked car seat questions:

  • What is ISOFIX, and is it safer than a seat belt? (00:00:17)
  • How long can a newborn stay in car seat? (00:00:50)
  • When can babies legally go in forward-facing car seats? (00:01:43)
  • How tight should the straps be? (00:02:37)
  • Why buy a £300 car seat when you can get one for £30? (00:03:08)
  • Can an infant car seat be in the front seat of a vehicle? (00:04:34)
  • Can I use a secondhand car seat? (00:05:01)

How much should I spend?

Prices range from £30 to over £400, but it's not always the case that the most expensive seat is the best.

All car seats have to pass the minimum safety criteria laid out by the R44 regulation to be legally sold, but many of the bigger brands do their own independent tests at higher speeds. Some have even passed the Swedish Plus Test, which is the world's strictest car seat test.

Overall, consider your budget and always check independent reviews before making any decision.

Can you use secondhand car seats?

A car seat's main job is to protect your baby and, for that purpose, it tends to be a single-use item. You can use a car seat until you have an accident, at which point it must be thrown away and replaced.

While secondhand seats aren't necessarily unsafe, if you buy a seat from someone you don't know you have no real way of knowing the seat's history. This may not be the case if it's been passed down from a relative or a friend, but even if the seat looks fine, it could still have suffered invisible damage that has made it weak or unsafe.

As such, experts from Good Egg Car Safety recommend never buying a secondhand seat.

Can you take a car seat on a plane?

If a child is under 18kg, then using a car seat on board a plane is the safest way to travel but the seat must be certified for use by either the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) or the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) or be TÜV approved. Check with your airline for their guidelines first. Airlines will also have car seat width restrictions in place and these can vary by carrier. Bear in mind that you'll need to book a separate seat for your child to travel in this way, as opposed to on your lap. 

When it comes to travelling abroad, make sure you understand the law in the country you are travelling to. EU seats can be used throughout Europe, and also in the Middle East, some parts of Africa, Asia and New Zealand. They're technically illegal to use in the USA, Canada and Australia, although they may be permitted for a holiday.

A car seat can often also be taken in the hold free of charge, but make sure it's well padded and covered to avoid being damaged.

If you're not travelling with a car seat but want to use one on arrival, you may want to consider ordering a new seat from a local retailer at your destination and see if it can be delivered to where you're staying or to the car rental place.

We don’t recommend hiring seats as they're often old, may not be suitable for your child and you won't know the history of them.

Read next: The best family holiday destinations, according to Mumsnet users

How we tested and why you should trust us

For continuity, we try to get one tester to test all the products in a single category. This reduces any potential variables during the testing process.

The car seats were all scored on the same criteria – safety, stability and comfort, assembly, day-to-day use, aesthetics, cleanliness and value for money – with the five highest scoring products coming out on top.

Safety, stability and comfort

We looked at factors including:

  • Crash test results
  • How easy each seat was to attach and detach
  • How useful and effective the designated fixing systems (seatbelt or ISOFIX) were to help parents avoid making any dangerous mistakes – was there was any room for error?
  • Straps and harnesses, particularly when it came to clicking them into place and adjusting
  • Padding and other safety features
  • Switching from rear- to forward-facing, where applicable
  • Materials – were they durable and robust?
  • How comfortable the baby was in the seat – were there any parts that could rub the skin or cause irritation? Were all fittings, including the harness, baby-proof?
  • How distracting the seat was for the parent when driving – did the seat obscure their view? Were the colours too bright?

Assembly

We checked that:

  • Each seat came with all the parts necessary to install
  • The instructions were clear and easy to follow – if ambiguous, we made note
  • There were helplines or online videos for extra guidance

Day-to-day use and comfort

We tested:

  • How quick and easy it was to get the baby in out and of the seat (and timed the whole process)
  • Whether or not they were able to fall asleep comfortably and if the seat could be removed with a sleeping baby still inside
  • For longevity – could the seat grow with the child?
  • Each seat on busy school runs, shopping trips, long car journeys and quick trips throughout the day, looking at both comfort and convenience

Aesthetics and cleaning

We looked at:

  • Whether the seat was easy to clean – we spilled milk and juice on each seat to see how it fared after cleaning and checked for removable covers that could be thrown in the washing machine at a moment's notice
  • The overall design of the seat, including colours, materials and thoughtful touches

Value for money

We assessed:

  • Price and evaluated whether each car seat offered good value for money – could it be used up until the age of four, or even 12, and was it affordable for the majority of parents?

All prices on this page correct at time of writing.

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